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Babylon A.D.

Movie title: Babylon A.D. (2008)
Grade: F (0 stars) Worst of 2008!
Rated: PG-13
Directors: Mathieu Kassovitz
Producers: Mathieu Kassovitz, Alain Goldman, Benoît Jaubert (Exec.), Selwyn Roberts
Starring: Vin Diesel “Toorop,” Michelle Yeoh “Sister Rebeka,” Mélanie Thierry “Aurora,” Gérard Depardieu “Gorsky,” Charlotte Rampling “High Priestess,” Mark Strong “Finn,” Lambert Wilson “Dr. Darquandier”
Genre: Scifi/Action
Summation: A mercenary is assigned to deliver a woman to America who is being sought by a powerful and corrupt religious cult.
Spoilers ahead: Yes
In a word: Wanting

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What does the title “Babylon A.D.” make you think about? Nebuchadnasser? Bible times? How about a rebirthing of a society in great corruption and decadence? Maybe wonders of the ancient world in modern post-apocalyptic times, perhaps? Well, whatever it reminds you of, your mental conception is likely too lofty for the likes of this failure of a film. But like great Babylon of old, this film is truly dead!

I’m not trying to be mean—oh no! I actually felt sorry for the cast in this film because the director seems to have had no idea of what it means to make a movie with a functional storyline, even though Kassovitz has claimed that the producers ruined his movie after he was done with it. The movie was based on a novel by Maurice G. Dantec called Babylon Babies. Maybe the novel was actually good, but no go for the movie. The fractured writing is, of course, what did it in. Watching it made me feel like a professor when a lazy-ass college freshman turns in a rough draft for an English essay final, but hasn’t a clue that it isn’t finished yet. This film was incomplete. I wanted to say, “Huh uh, go the fuck back and sit down and finish this!” But unlike grading a term paper, you can’t do that when grading films, so it gets an F.

In this movie, segmented ideas and concepts are thrown out and never explained. The movie ends and you’re going “what??????” The low budget feel could have been forgiven, as could the “tough guy” element that is heavily present in the film. But what could not be forgiven are the horrendous scifi gadgets that are among the worst I’ve ever seen on film. Can you imagine a director being so stupid as to show off technological advancement by having wires attached to a man OUTSIDE of the suit-coat he’s wearing?! I got a good laugh from that, believe me!

The movie wasn’t boring. The fight scenes were decent in a few places, aside from that all too common cinematic ailment known as Shakey Camera Syndrome. The choreography wasn’t bad. The special affects were okay. No B-movie would have been able to do this well, so the budget was there. The dialogue was good, and there was some character development and a touch of likableness to the three main characters, but that is all. Just when you want to appreciate it, the plot skips right off the map into a sci-fi psychosis that it never returns from. The story is nebulous, bringing up all sorts of questions.

Since the plot itself is confusing and very difficult to follow, I’ll summarize it. It’s about Toorop (Vin Diesel), a mercenary hired to deliver a package from Russia to New York City. But the package is no ordinary package, but a strange woman “Aurora” (Melanie Thierri) who has a secret and some unusual abilities, like the ability to know things she has never studied. The journey to America is difficult as Toorop faces some serious obstacles along the way, like flying machines that kill anything that moves—even the likes of polar bears! On a side note, you’d think that since polar bears are an endangered species, and this is the future where other animals, like tigers, are stated in the film to have already gone extinct, that they’d want to preserve them. But you thought wrong!

Toorop finally gets there with Aurora and her nun sister, Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh) who was in a convent with her in Russia to avoid those sent by Aurora’s evil mother to take her. Why did they want to take her? Because her father, believed to be dead, engineered her at birth to have psychic-like great intelligence and to be able (it is implied) to produce two virgin-born children for the purpose of having absolute scientific proof for the world to see that the Neolite religion is the one true religion.

Against the grain of his character, Toorop makes the choice not to hand over the package, but decides to deliver the two women from the corrupt religion. Rebeka is killed in the process, as is Toorop temporarily, but he is resurrected and delivered by Dr. Arthur Darquandier (Aurora’s father) using advanced medical devices. The doctor is fighting against his former wife and mother of Aurora and is himself shown to be alive only by technological advances. Toorop is then given a cybernetic hand due to damages sustained in death. Aurora had by then become inexplicably pregnant with two children of different races, although she remained a virgin. She dies giving birth to the twins and Toorop raises them as his own, and the movie ends.

I’m leaving out a lot of details, like Toorop accidentally walking into cage matches with growling, buffed-out fighters, scenes of post-apocalyptic disaster where train stations explode and submarines leave people to drown in icy waters, and mysterious encounters with corrupt religious gangsters who ride motorcycles and kill people, along with Russian mobsters who blow up convents. But I needn’t mention any of it. It’s all the sort of painful and unappealing drab you’d find in any B-movie with a deformed plot. The story is as hazy and as poorly constructed as the blurted-out pacifist sentiments of a cracked-out Woodstock hippie. It’s hard to follow, it’s indescribably weird and un-life-like, and it’s just…well…bad!

Had the director been able to tell a story that made a lick of sense, things would have been different. But as it stands, things just don’t jive! Among the many questions that linger are, where do these virgin born children really come from? Why are they of different races? Why did the corrupt Neolite religion need virgin-born children to vindicate their faith, and why do they show disgust at not having “evidence” for it? Since when do religious nutcases admit that they have no evidence for their claims and then seek to find it? Where’s the self-delusion? Most religious people pursue their beliefs out of passion, however misled. The rest are the devious minds with impure motives who seek to make a buck, but seldom are they conspirators like they are in this flick. Human nature is one of many things “off” in this film, but then again, everything else is off too. Babylon A.D. is definitely in the running for the worst movie of 2008.

(JH)

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